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At Parliament Opening Ceremony People of Faith urged to work together


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By Tracy Simmons

Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid speaks at Parliament of World's Religions/Tracy Simmons - SpokaneFAVS
Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid speaks at Parliament of World’s Religions/Tracy Simmons – SpokaneFAVS

SALT LAKE CITY — The overarching message at the opening ceremony of the Parliament of the World’s Religions Thursday evening was that people of all religions need to work together to stop oppression, end violence and mend the planet.

Several faith leaders and politicians spoke at the event, but Rabbi David Saperstein brought the 9,000 attendees to their feet when he said the only way to end violence and domination over others was by speaking out.

Saperstein is the United States ambassador at-large for International Religious Freedom and said people of various faiths working together for the good of all humanity is the “most powerful anecdote” to the world’s problems.

And women are key, he said.

He spoke of the millions of women across the globe who don’t have access to an education, saying that two-thirds of adult  women don’t know how to read. Boko Haram kidnappend Christian schoolgirls and other extremist groups have targeted young women because women are a threat, Saperstein said.

“There’s a global backlash against girls who are educated. Why are they so afraid of a girl who is educated?,” he asked. “Because the greatest threat to extremism is girls reading books.”

He didn’t stop there. Saperstein also tackled climate change.

Rabbi David Saperstein takes the stage at Parliament of World's Religions/Tracy Simmons- SpokaneFAVS
Rabbi David Saperstein takes the stage at Parliament of World’s Religions/Tracy Simmons- SpokaneFAVS

He asked the crowd to imagine what it would like it the millions of houses of worship across the planet worked together to protect God’s creation: the Earth.

“Everyone I have ever loved or love, lives here. We must not betray God’s trust in us, or the trust of the generations yet to come,” he said.

The biggest thing holding people of faith back from working cohesively is fear, he said. In many countries religious freedom does not exist, so people are unable to fully live out their faith.

“We, above all, you must not be silent,” he said, urging practitioners to speak out against such injustices. “We are not prisoners of the past. We must be shapers of a better, more hopeful future. Together we can smash limitations.”

Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, chairman of the parliament, echoed Saperstein’s words. He said the world is in turmoil, reminding people not to turn against one another.

“We should learn lessons about being our brother’s keepers,” he said.

This mask was carried in a procession at the opening ceremony of the Parliament of World's Religions/Tracy Simmons - SpokaneFAVS
This mask was carried in a procession at the opening ceremony of the Parliament of World’s Religions/Tracy Simmons – SpokaneFAVS

Being a good global neighbor, he said, means consuming less, sharing more and embracing diversity.

Gov. Gary Herbert also spoke at the ceremony, welcoming guests to Utah. He too said diverse religions coming together can lead to peace.

“Harmony is needed more now than ever,” he said. “Clearly the world’s religions have a role to play in reaching that goal.”

It’s a task that’s not easy, he said, but essential in the world’s future.

Tracy Simmons
Tracy Simmons
Tracy Simmons is an award-winning journalist specializing in religion reporting and digital entrepreneurship. In her approximate 20 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti. Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas, Connecticut and Washington. She is the executive director of SpokaneFāVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Washington. She also writes for The Spokesman-Review and national publications. She is a Scholarly Assistant Professor of Journalism at Washington State University.

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